By Rick Riozza

At this year’s end (and I’m sure we said the same thing last year), there’s just so much hustle & bustle—our days are simply so busy.  So, we’re just going to take it easy and comment on some new wines that have recently come on the market.  Having tasted and enjoyed the wines either as an aperitif or with meals, we are most happy to recommend them to help cheer on the holidays!

A couple of weeks ago we covered some festive holiday bubbly and we’ll do so again in our next column, but when one needs a very reasonably priced sparkling wine that tastes great and looks festive on the holiday table, we’ll always suggest the two sparkling siblings from Sterling Vineyards: 2016 Sterling Vineyards Sparkling Rosé and 2016 Sterling Vineyards Sparkling Blanc de Blancs.  Both bubblies go for around $20 and are fashioned in an artsy carafe style bottle.

The Rosé sparkler owns fresh aromas of strawberry, cherry blossom, rose petal and crisp apple which lead to a similar push palate.  This wine goes with pretty much everything on the table.   The Blanc de Blancs, which is produced with 100% Napa Valley Chardonnay, is as fresh as can be with floral notes and soft creamy texture—balanced, structured with acidity.  Delish!

Rosés for the Remainder of the YearRosés continue to reign in the desert no matter what season: spring, summer, or fall.  And now in the winter months—no breaking news here, we’re all still quaffing pretty in pink.  The two rosés below are world class and are a definite treat for the season.

The latest Côtes de Provence rosé to come across my office wine bar is from Domaine Chateau Peyrassol. With over 800 years of winemaking experience and an exceptional terroir, the wines produced by this Domaine are among the very top in the French Rosé world.

We tasted through two romantic rosés from Peyrassol:  2018 #Lou by Peyrassol ($15), and the 2018 “Chateau Peyrassol” Côtes de Provence Rosé ($25).  The obviously modern labeled name, #Lou by Peyrassol, is the Domaine’s fun-loving and casual take on rosé—but no matter the fun or the price, remember it’s still a premium rosé from a great winery. 

The 2018 #Lou is truly a “youthful blend, light and full of fruit.  Straightforward but stylish, it charms with its spontaneity and its musical southern accent.”  It’s a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Rolle which provide a bouquet and palate of gooseberry, wild strawberry, and raspberries with a hint of citrus that moves to the palate.

I’m enjoying this wine as I’m writing and having some Lays Potato Chips alongside; a beautifully light and seductive combination with any dish.  At $15, it’s one of the best rosés for your holiday parties and could go on to be your “house rosé” for the next year.

The 2018 “Chateau Peyrassol” Côtes de Provence Rosé is the flagship wine of the winery produced from select plots from the oldest vines in the Domaine, highlighting the essence of what Provence is.  A blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre and Rolle provides an elegant nose with aromas of small red fruits, peach and pomelo that move into the palate.  It’s silky, citrus-y, a touch saline, and surely elegant.

No question during the holidays, we wine columnists like to keep our material light, happy and festive.  But when it comes to our next Pinot Noir recommendation—sorry, but the label name on this new Prisoner Wine Company bottle sounds like the dark side of Xmas hope:  Eternally Silenced ($54.99). 

Think what you wish, but one always has to give credit to PWC for a portfolio of defiantly different wine blends and inventive wine labels and packaging.  With Eternally Silenced, “each bottle is hand-dipped in wax, partially obscuring the mysterious figure on its label, a tantalizing tease that almost begs to be spoken about. Its red berry flavors and seamless tannins beautifully compliment roasted duck or delicate cheeses like Brie and Camembert.”

The Winemaker Notes state: “Rich and elegant, soft and well-balanced. Aromas of pine needles, cranberry, dark cherry, cedar, clove, and brown spice lead to fresh red berry flavors, an ample structure, and seamless tannins.”

It’s a blend of 95% Pinot Noir consisting of 25% Santa Barbara, 25% Sonoma Coast, 20% Napa Valley, 20% Edna Valley, 10% Monterey and adding a touch of Syrah/Viognier (5%)—as many French and Australian winemakers do with their Syrah/Shiraz blend.

Just last night, I enjoyed this Eternally Silenced, Pinot Noir, with a meal of Lemon-Peppered Marinated Chicken Wings, Roasted Root Vegetables, and an Arugula salad.  Hey—there was some real action of flavors and textures with the wine.  Sure—I got those pine needles, cranberries, cherries, and cloves; but with the pairing of lemon pepper and roast veggies, so much more complexities of herbs, forest floor, and licorice came out.  What a well-produced wine!

And to boot: the wine was medium-bodied! It did not dominate, like so many Pinots can do these days.  This is the most stylistic wine I’ve had from the Prisoner Wine Company.!

For our Cab Sauv pick of the week, let’s review the delicious 2014 Long Meadow Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvingnon (around $50). This is one lively, expressive, and very dark Napa Cab! At first sight, one would think we were pouring a big burly Zinfandel; but when the elegant aromas hit, we knew we had a classic Napa Valley Cabernet—and at that price, probably one of the best high-end Cab deals around, blended with 7% Petit Verdot and 4% Petite Sirah, the Cabernet’s aromas included ripe blackberry, cocoa powder and a hint of fresh mint.  Talk about a holiday season quaff!

It’s a ripe, intense and big wine without being heavy-handed or alcohol driven.  Indeed, at 13.5% alcohol, this is a consummate dinner wine with rousing dark fruits, such as blackberries and cassis really opening up after an hour of decanting.  Great texture, balance, and have we said elegant?  Holiday Cheers!